What is to fear God? And how to shun evil?
“To fear God” does not mean nameless fright and horror, nor to evade, nor to put at a distance, nor is it idolization or superstition. Rather, it is admiration, esteem, trust, understanding, caring, obedience, consecration, love, as well as unconditional and uncomplaining worship, requital, and surrender. Without genuine knowledge of God, humanity will not have genuine admiration, genuine trust, genuine understanding, genuine caring or obedience, but only dread and unease, only doubt, misunderstanding, evasion, and avoidance; without genuine knowledge of God, humanity will not have genuine consecration and requital; without genuine knowledge of God, humanity will not have genuine worship and surrender, only blind idolization and superstition; without genuine knowledge of God, humanity cannot possibly act in accordance with the way of God, or fear God, or shun evil. Conversely, every activity and behavior in which man engages will be filled with rebellion and defiance, with slanderous imputations and calumnious judgments about Him, and with evil conduct running contrary to the truth and to the true meaning of God’s words.
The Biblical Story of Job: The 3 Main Manifestations of Job’s Fear of God
By Zhou Ming
Whenever the words “fear God” are mentioned, most people will think of the story of Job in the Bible. Job feared God and shunned evil, he stood witness for God during his trials, he earned God’s praise and blessings, and he lived out a worthy and meaningful life which is much admired by us today. Now, let’s review the Book of Job and have a detailed look at the ways in which Job manifested his fear of God, and this will help us to gain some new understanding and entry into the truth of fearing God.
1. Job Had a God-fearing Heart and He Did Nothing in His Life That Displeased God
It says in the Book of Job 1:5: “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.”
Job possessed great wealth and was called the greatest of men among those who dwelt in the east; he was the equivalent of a modern millionaire. To us, it seems as though Job lived such a life of luxury that it must have been fitting for him to hold feasts occasionally, and it would not have been considered over the top for him to live a luxurious and extravagant lifestyle. And yet Job held no feasts and he did not even attend the feasts held by his children. Perhaps some people will be a bit confused by this, and will wonder whether Job was just too old-fashioned and conservative? In fact, Job made such strict demands of himself and he always kept on his best behavior in life, and this behavior bore a direct link to his fear of God. As human beings, we have no power to overcome sin, and if we attend feasts, we then become possessed by the desire to eat, drink and be merry, we can become covetous of physical pleasures, we can be apt to shun God, lose our normal relationship with God and even do things which displease God. Job was clear in his heart on this point, and therefore he preferred to live a simple and plain life rather than do anything that may displease God. It is clear that this kind of behavior was not Job being old-fashioned and conservative, but rather it was him taking the way of fearing God and shunning evil to heart. He paid no consideration to his flesh and paid no heed to enjoying a high-quality material life. Instead, the motives behind everything he said and did were to satisfy God’s will and not to do anything that might displease God.
Job was not only afraid of straying from God’s way, he also worried that his children would displease God by their frequent feasting. From this, we can see that Job did not indulge his children’s sins because of their family attachment, but instead he despised and loathed his children’s merry-making, for he knew that God hated it also. Whenever a feast was over, Job would dispatch a servant to tell his children to sanctify themselves, and he often offered burnt offerings for their sake. It is said in the Bible, “Thus did Job continually.” This shows even more that Job feared God with his heart; his behavior and expressions of his fear for God were not just skin-deep, much less were they practices brought about by occasional feelings of high-spiritedness or by some transient arousal of emotion. Instead, he took the way of fearing God and shunning evil to heart, and he began with the little things. As the word of God states: “Job did not go and look in on his sons occasionally, or when it pleased him, nor did he confess to God through prayer. Instead, he regularly sent his sons to be sanctified, and sacrificed burnt offerings for them. The word ‘continually’ here does not mean he did so for one or two days, or for a moment. It is saying that the manifestation of Job’s fear of God was not temporary, and did not stop at knowledge or spoken words; instead, the way of fearing God and shunning evil guided his heart, it dictated his behavior, and it was, in his heart, the root of his existence. That he did so continually shows that, in his heart, he often feared that he himself would sin against God and was also afraid that his sons and daughters would sin against God. It represents just how much weight the way of fearing God and shunning evil carried within his heart” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”).
2. Job Had a God-fearing Heart and Could Submit to God’s Sovereignty and Arrangements During His Trials
Satan accused Job before God and, after God gave His permission, Satan could scarcely then wait to tempt Job. Not long after, the news that Job’s livestock had been stolen, that his servants were slain, and that his ten children had all lost their lives came thick and fast. In an instant, Job went from having everything to having nothing. We can imagine how dreadful it must have been, and no one would have been able to endure it, no matter who they were. And yet Job behaved very calmly; he did not panic and he did not send anyone off to recover his stolen property. Instead, he “arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.” The calmness he exhibited was completely unanticipated. God’s words say: “Job was very calm and clear-headed then. His perfect and upright humanity enabled him to rationally and naturally make accurate judgments and decisions about the disasters that had befallen him, and in consequence, he behaved with unusual calm: ‘Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.’ ‘Rent his mantle’ means that he was unclothed, and possessed of nothing; ‘shaved his head’ means he had returned before God as a newborn infant; ‘fell down on the ground, and worshipped’ means he had come into the world naked, and still without anything today, he was returned to God as a newborn baby. Job’s attitude toward all that befell him could not have been achieved by any creature of God. His faith in Jehovah God went beyond the realm of belief; this was his fear of God, and obedience to God, and he was not only able to give thanks to God for giving to him, but also for taking from him. What’s more, he was able to take it upon himself to return all that he owned, including his life” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”). “Though he did not see God, he realized that God truly existed, and because of this realization he feared God—and due to his fear of God, he was able to obey God. He gave God free rein to take whatever he had, yet he was without complaint, and fell down before God and told Him that, at this very moment, even if God took his flesh, he would gladly allow Him to do so, without complaint. His entire conduct was due to his perfect and upright humanity. Which is to say, as a result of his innocence, honesty, and kindness, Job was unwavering in his realization and experience of God’s existence, and upon this foundation he made demands of himself and standardized his thinking, behavior, conduct and principles of actions before God in accordance with God’s guidance of him and the deeds of God that he had seen among all things. Over time, his experiences caused in him a real and actual fear of God and made him shun evil. This was the source of the integrity to which Job held firm” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”).
Faced with such great trials, Job did not complain, but was able to prostrate himself on the ground and praise the holy name of Jehovah, and he submitted to the fact that God had taken everything away from him—this was a manifestation of Job’s fear of God. Job’s character was upright, honest, pure and good. In the people, events and things he encountered every day, he sought to understand God’s sovereignty and he walked the path of fearing God and shunning evil. Throughout Job’s decades of experience, though Jehovah God never appeared to him, Job truly witnessed God’s sovereignty and deeds and he became even more sure about the real existence of God, and thus there arose in him a God-fearing heart. He also understood that the wealth, property and children he had in his life had all been given to him by God, and man himself could never obtain such things with his own efforts if God did not choose to bestow them upon him. Therefore, when Job’s property was stolen and his children met their unfortunate demise, he knew very clearly in his heart that this was God’s trial that had befallen him, and his sense of rationality told him that everything he possessed had come from God, that God had the right to both give and take away and that, as one of God’s creations, he absolutely must not blame God, speak sinfully or displease God. Instead, he knew that he should submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements with a God-fearing heart. Ultimately, in his suffering, Job said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1: 21), and he stood firm in his testimony to God.
3. Job Had a God-fearing Heart and He Rebuked His Wife—He Knew Clearly What to Love and What to Hate, and He Possessed a Sense of Justice
After Job’s whole body broke out in painful boils, Satan once again tried to tempt Job by means of his own wife. As it says in the Bible: “Then said his wife to him, Do you still retain your integrity? curse God, and die. But he said to her, You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9–10). Confronted by his wife’s urging, why did Job rebuke her so sternly?
God’s words say, “Seeing the torment he was suffering, Job’s wife tried to advise Job to help him escape his torment—yet the ‘good intentions’ did not gain Job’s approval; instead, they stirred his anger, for she denied his faith in, and obedience to Jehovah God, and also denied the existence of Jehovah God. This was intolerable to Job, for he had never allowed himself to do anything that opposed or hurt God, to say nothing of others. How could he remain indifferent when he saw others speak words that blasphemed against and insulted God? Thus he called his wife a ‘foolish woman.’ Job’s attitude toward his wife was one of anger and hate, as well as reproach and reprimand. This was the natural expression of Job’s humanity of differentiating between love and hate, and was a true representation of his upright humanity. Job was possessed of a sense of justice—one which made him hate the winds and tides of wickedness, and loathe, condemn, and reject absurd heresy, ridiculous arguments, and ludicrous assertions, and allowed him to hold true to his own, correct principles and stance when he had been rejected by the masses and deserted by those who were close to him” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”). God is the truth, the way and the life and He represents all positive things; all things that deny God or resist God pertain to Satan and are negative things. Job feared God and shunned evil and he loved positive things. He was utterly upright, he could differentiate between love and hate and God took the uppermost place in his heart. He could not tolerate anyone denying God, judging God or blaspheming against God, and whenever he saw someone denying God, there arose loathing in his heart, and his own family was no exception. He still had to hold fast to the way of fearing God and shunning evil, stand on the side of justice and truth, and not be afraid of displeasing anyone. Therefore, when his wife asked him to abandon God and deny God’s righteousness, Job did not let his feelings for his wife sway him in any way, but instead coldly rebuked his wife for being a foolish woman. By doing so, he once again overcame the temptation of Satan and he stood firm in his testimony to God.
Above are the manifestations of Job’s fear of God, and from them we come to understand that fear of God is not something that can be claimed with mere words, but instead it requires us to focus on our entry in the people, events, things and environments God arranges for us, and it requires us to emulate Job. In our daily lives, for example, we must take heed to shun all manner of temptations: There are some places of entertainment or places which can cause our hearts to become debauched and to shun God that we must not go to or have any contact with, and by avoiding these places we will be protected; when trials befall us, such as if a disaster occurs at home or a family member falls on hard times, then no matter what God does, we must never misunderstand God or blame God, but must be able to submit to His sovereignty and arrangements; when we are harassed and deceived by people, events or things, we must always uphold truth and justice, not be constrained by anyone else, and not go along with anyone’s defiance of God to the point where we even abandon God and walk away from Him. Job is our benchmark for our entry into the truth of fearing God. If we can all be like Job and bring the truth of fearing God and shunning evil into our lives, practice it and enter into it, and begin with the little things, then we will also frequently receive God’s guidance and blessings, and we will become God-fearing people.
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